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Wildlife rangers protect humankind’s most valuable natural assets. Species have come back from the brink of extinction because they are there, guarding what cannot be lost. Their work requires grit and determination, not unlike what is expected of frontline workers who dedicate themselves to the service of others. The big difference here is that these men and women often go unnoticed. For their protection and that of their families, their names are mostly kept out of the public domain, away from the illegal wildlife trade syndicates who would not hesitate to eliminate what threatens their supply. Rangers spend long, hard hours on patrol or in pursuit of those who prey on our precious and vulnerable wildlife. Countless times these men and women have left a dinner table, family gathering or celebration event to answer the call of their fellow rangers for support.

In Mozambique, Peace Parks Foundation supports rangers deployed in Maputo Special Reserve, as well as Zinave, Banhine and Limpopo national parks. In 2019, they undertook a total of 8 777 patrols during which they removed close to 8 000 snares and arrested 163 suspected poachers. Despite the many challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, rangers have remained steadfast. Since the beginning of 2020, the 247 rangers deployed in these parks have already removed 6 152 snares saving not only the intended animal targets, but also those that get caught and are of no use to poachers and are left to die senselessly.

In the Simalaha Community Conservancy, which is situated in the Zambian component of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, 22 rangers have spent nearly 4 700 hours on patrol, removing snares and gin traps to prevent the illegal killing of wildlife. In the Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area, Peace Parks supports anti-poaching operations in Malawi’s Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve and Nyika National Park. Here, 80 rangers have removed just over 650 snares in the last six months.

This World Ranger Day, we take a moment to recognise the work being done by rangers across southern Africa to protect our conservation areas. Without them, many more species would certainly be lost to extinction. We honour them for their bravery and wish them strength and courage for what lies ahead.

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